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Twins credit each other for success in chemistry

By : Nicole Borawski

Twins Aaron, left, and Wes Sattler, chemistry majors and joint recipients of the Binghamton Section of the American Chemical Society Outstanding Graduating Senior award, are headed to Columbia University for graduate studies.

Aaron and Wes Sattler, 21, share a birthday and a passion for science. The Westchester County twins loved science and math as children and took an early interest in Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Sattlers, who both maintained a 4.0 GPA in chemistry for the past four years, were joint recipients of the Binghamton Section of the American Chemical Society Outstanding Graduating Senior award.

Jim Dix, associate professor and undergraduate director of chemistry, named them the two best chemistry majors graduating this spring.

“Science was always our best subject,” Aaron said. “It is more important to understand it than memorize.”

The brothers said they have never been ones to spend countless hours in the library studying.

“Don’t try to memorize the material,” Wes added, when asked how they are able to do so well in the field. “Chemistry and physics are the way life works, and we like knowing about how things work.”

The brothers worked on  undergraduate research for 2½ years with Wayne Jones, associate professor and graduate director of chemistry.

Wes’ goal is to produce hydrogen gas as an energy source from sunlight and water. He must characterize the structures and understand the physical states behind them. “Studying these complexes to understand how they act in reaction to light will allow us to eventually use them as a photocatalyst for energy production,” he said.

Aaron began by researching organic polymers. In his research, he is attempting to enhance the conductivity of conducting polymers to replace metals. The project could yield a cheaper, more flexible and non-toxic conductor.

Dix chose the Sattlers to be teaching assistants for his junior-level physical chemistry course last fall. It was the first time he relied on undergraduates for the job in his 25 years of teaching. The brothers, who held office hours and gave online lectures, believe it helped the students to have undergraduates as teaching assistants.

Dix attributes their success to a “natural ability” in science. The twins said they would not have been as successful if they hadn’t gone to school together.

“We study together and take the same classes,” Aaron said, “and we basically get the same grades on tests.”

The brothers will continue their chemistry research at Columbia University, their top choice for graduate studies, in the fall. They’re unsure about their career paths. Both are considering careers in academia or further research into pharmaceuticals, cancer and alternative energy sources.

“They are the epitome of a Bing-hamton University student scholar,” said Jones, who has worked with the Sattlers since their freshman year. “It is uncommon for any student to get involved with Ph.D.-level research in their freshman or sophomore year. It demonstrated their perseverance, and I am certain they are going to do great at Columbia.”

The Sattlers enjoy sports and going out with their friends. They played intramural softball and flag football all four years at Binghamton.

“We always like to go out,” Wes said. “You only live once, and college is supposed to be a great time. We made great friends here and it is a crazy, unfortunate thing that it’s over.”

Dix said the brothers’ “voracious appetite for learning” makes them stand out among their peers.

“They’re ideal students, not bound by the strictures of any course syllabus,” he said. “Their intellect ranges wide and far, and they don’t appear to be intimidated by the difficulty of a subject, or influenced too much by what’s in fashion at the moment. They’re independent thinkers.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08